Elsie Delva with 5-month-old Ali and 6-year-old Daphnee.
Earthquake survivors can restart their businesses with small grants

Back to work - rebuilding livelihoods in Carrefour Feuilles

“I hope to be able to expand my business, that would make it much easier to live, and then I would be able to send the children to school.”
Elsie Delva

Elsie Delva is from Carrefour Feuilles, a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. She lost everything in the earthquake. As one of the most vulnerable members of her community, she was selected as a beneficiary of one of the first community canteens that Oxfam opened in March.

Since then Oxfam has also supported her with grants of 50 and 100 US dollars, so she could recapitalize her business and start earning a living again. We visited her to see how they were getting on, three months after Oxfam began working with her.

Elsie is standing outside the tent she shares with her neighbors, setting up some grocery goods on a basic wooden trestle table, with a little toddler cradled in one arm. Another little girl is standing beside her. Elsie seems slightly embarrassed that her stall isn't set out yet, like some of the others nearby; she explains that today she didn't put out all her stock because she hasn't been feeling very well.

"When the earthquake happened my house fell on top of me, and I was injured; my clavicle was crushed. So some days I don't feel well enough to work. After the earthquake I was stuck under the rubble, from 5 o'clock in the afternoon, until 9 o'clock the next night when they pulled us out. After that I suffered a lot from my injuries. And I had lost everything. I had nothing at all."

"Yet I had to take care of these children, both of them are orphans." She introduces us to the girls. "Daphnee is 6, and I have been taking care of her for a long time. She was in the house with me when it collapsed, and I fell on top of her; she was hurt too." She shows us a scar on the side of Daphnee's neck and cheek. Then she smiles at the little girl on her arm. "Little Ali is 5 months old; her mother died 22 days after the earthquake so I have been taking care of her too."

Canteens and grants

"So after the earthquake things were very difficult. Then Oxfam started the canteens, and we were able to eat every day for two months. That helped. And since then, Oxfam also gave me money. With that money, I was able to repay some debt that I had so that I could feed the children, and then I bought some stock and opened this stall. It allows me to eat and to feed the children; feeding them is very expensive." I ask her about the future. "I hope to be able to expand my business, that would make it much easier to live, and then I would be able to send the children to school."

Oxfam has a number of livelihoods programs across the city, in areas that were badly affected by the earthquake, like Carrefour Feuilles, and where many people lost their means of earning a living. 15,600 of the most vulnerable people, like Elsie and her family, have been able to eat hot meals every day for two months, through the community canteen program.

Once each canteen closes, Oxfam is also supporting these families with a grant of 50 US dollars to cover their most basic needs, followed by a livelihoods grant of 100 US dollars, to enable them to start earning a living again. In all, Oxfam's livelihoods grant program will support 30,000 families (roughly 150,000 people) over the next few months.

Written by Julia Gilbert, photo by Kateryna Perus